A quick fix to a broken spinnaker pole
By Meade Gougeon
Adagio, our 35' trimaran was already off to a
bad start in the 100th anniversary of the first
running of the Chicago to Mackinaw race
with an over-early call by the race committee.
Everything went downhill from there.
Less than an hour into the race the luff wire
in our number one genoa parted, putting our
crucial 360 sq ft light air weapon out of business.
Attempts to use it to leeward on our
spinnaker pole resulted in more loads than
the pole was designed to handle. It collapsed
with a bang!
In an instant, our inventory of five sails was
reduced to two: the main and the working
jib. No spinnaker, no screecher and no
genoa. In effect we were out of the competition -
a huge blow to the crew who'd looked
forward to this prestigious race all season.
Fortunately, we were still sailing to weather
with the fleet, but without the use of our
genoa we lagged behind most of our competitors.
Thoughts turned to a pole repair, but
could we do this quickly enough to get us
back into this race?
Within five hours of the
breakage, the modified
epoxy blend had cured
on the pole splice. With
the spinnaker pole fully
restored we were back
in the race.
With nothing to lose we started to prepare
the remains of the pole by squaring off each
broken end about six inches in from the
break point, effectively reducing our pole
length by one foot. To realign the halves, we
fit the two ends using a spare sail batten,
making two 18" splints that we stuffed into
the hollow ends. We then sanded the sharp
In the main cabin we set up a gluing operation
complete with Handy Packs of WEST
SYSTEM 105 Epoxy Resin and 205 Fast
Hardener, and two small bottles of G/5
Five-Minute Adhesive. We laid out lengths
of 1½" 702 Unidirectional Carbon Fiber
Tape for wet out on a sheet of thin repair
plywood (an item we always carry when going
offshore). We first wet out two 20"
lengths, which we then cut in half and applied
to the pole leaving 5" on either side of
the butt splice, with the four layers just covering
the pole circumference. We applied
four more layers like these, each two inches
shorter than its predecessor.
The key to success of the operation was mixing
105 Resin/205 Fast Hardener with G/5
resin and hardener in a two-to-one blend.1
This mixture vastly sped the cure time of
105/205 to 15 minutes working time and a
tack free cure of about one hour. With two
separate batches we got the job done in
about 40 minutes using only a plastic
spreader to apply the epoxy and to remove
air while the cure progressed on the layers of
carbon fiber tape.
At one hour (while still in the green stage)
we wrapped the entire carbon splice area
with light cordage under tension, both to
consolidate the various layers and increase
Meanwhile, our navigator and chief rigger
Butch Babcock was busy figuring out how to
replace the broken wire in our number one
genoa with a 3
8" diameter spectra rope. He
incorporated an ingenious method that limited
our boat shutdown to less than an hour
to complete the operation.
Meade preparing the
boom for repair while
the broken end with a
hacksaw. 2-Fitting a
batten in the broken
end. 3. Connecting the
broken ends before
completing the repair
with a WEST SYSTEM
Handy Pack, two small
bottles of G/5 and some
lengths of 1½" Unidirectional
Within five hours of the breakage, the
hopped-up epoxy system had cured on the
pole splice. With our weapons fully restored
we were back in the race.
Our new enthusiasm was tempered by the
fact that we were now at least 20 miles behind
our class leaders. We knew this because
all 432 boats in the race were equipped with
transponders that updated every boat's position
on the hour with immediate display on
the internet. With good cell phone reception
on Lake Michigan, every contestant-for the
first time in history-could tell where they
stood in relation to their competitors.
Up to this point our frustration was so great
that all we wanted to do was sail the hell out
of Adagio all the way to the finish line, which
was still over 200 miles away. We had little
hope of catching up to our fleet.
Perhaps Murphy decided to give us a break
or we just got lucky, but we managed to
work our way through the fleet over the next
30 hours to become the second multihull to
finish, coming in behind the 60' trimaran
Earth Voyager. Even though we corrected
out to fifth place on rating, this was a moral
victory; we were proud of our seamanship,
response to adversity and drive to keep old
Adagio in the hunt in her 39th season.
The bowsprit is back in action as Adagio
approaches the Mackinac Bridge.
For a number of years we've been juicing up WEST
SYSTEM 105/205 with G/5 to speed cure. Initial test data
shows little loss of physical properties at the 2-to-1 ratio
we used on the pole repair. When blending 105/205
with G/5 Adhesive, it's important to meter the G/5
resin/hardener mix at the correct ratio and the 105/205
at the correct ratio before blending all together. Contact
the technical staff if you have any questions about
blending WEST SYSTEM epoxies.We will of course, continue
to break things, experiment, do our research and
publish articles on the subject.
Epoxyworks 27 / Fall 2008
Copyright © 2008, Gougeon Brothers, Inc. All rights reserved.
Reproduction in any form, in whole or in part, is expressly forbidden without the consent of the publisher. EPOXYWORKS, Gougeon Brothers, WEST SYSTEM, Episize, Scarffer and Microlight as used throughout this publication, are trademarks of Gougeon Brothers, Inc., Bay City, Michigan, USA.